Virtualization Moves Beyond Servers

At the Intel Developer Forum, Intel and other vendors reveal plans to extend virtualization technology to other parts of the infrastructure.

SAN FRANCISCO—As server virtualization becomes more mainstream in the x86 space, technology vendors are beginning to look at what other areas the principles of the technology can be applied.

At the Intel Developer Forum here, Intel unveiled plans to extend its Intel Virtualization Technology beyond the system level and into the interconnect.

The Santa Clara, Calif., companys move follows a similar one by rival Advanced Micro Devices, which in February at a virtualization conference hosted by analyst firm IDC announced the broad availability of the technology specifications for its upcoming I/O virtualization.

Also at the show, companies such as Altiris, Microsoft and VMware also shared plans for their respective virtualization offerings, ranging from virtualizing applications to greater management of virtualized environments.

Server virtualization is the idea of being able to run multiple operating systems and applications on a single physical system through the use of virtual machines, or pooling multiple machines into a single compute environment. The result is a more flexible environment that increases system utilization and reduces the need to add more physical systems when workloads are added.

It also addresses the growing concern of power consumption and heat generation in the data center by enabling administrators to add workloads without having to grow the number of physical servers.

Virtualization is gaining in popularity. IDC expects spending on virtualization technology to reach $15 billion by 2009, and VMware said 90 percent of its customers have moved virtualization from the test-and-development environments into production.

The interest also could be noted at IDF. A standing-room-only crowd of more than 200 people listened in on a panel discussion about virtualization.

Now Intel, AMD and others are looking to add such capabilities to other parts of the infrastructure.

Intel already has begun bringing its chip-level virtualization technology to some of its processors and will expand it throughout much of the product line—including the upcoming next-generation Itanium 2 processor, dubbed "Montecito"—this year. At his keynote here March 7, Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manager of Intels Digital Enterprise Group, said next year the company will expand the reach of the technology to include interconnects.

Gelsinger introduced Intel Virtual Technology for Directed I/O—or VT-d—which will enable users to partition and assign I/O devices to virtual machines. Gelsinger announced the immediate availability of the specifications for the technology, and both VMware and Microsoft said they will support it in future versions of their respective virtualization products.

AMD, of Sunnyvale, Calif., will bring virtualization capabilities—called AMD Virtualization Technology—to its processor lineup in the middle of this year. The company said in February that it expects its I/O virtualization technology to be supported by its chips this year.

Next Page: Bringing virtualization to the hardware level.